pomegranate seeds

shaved brussels sprout salad

Earlier this week I shared my first official Thanksgiving recipe for the year. Now that I think about it though, I guess I started sharing things a little out of order.

shaved brussels sprouts salad | Brooklyn Homemaker

Sometime next week I’ll let you guys in on my secret for perfectly cooked, perfectly moist turkey, and I might even give you a sneak peek into the rest of the meal. Today, though, I’m sharing my first course.

shaved brussels sprouts salad | Brooklyn Homemaker

Have you ever noticed how certain vegetables get a bad rap?

Brussels sprouts have a reputation for making children stick their tongues out and gag, but I know more people who love them than don’t. I never ate brussels sprouts growing up, I don’t even think I’d tasted one until college. A few years ago I was gabbing with my mom on the phone when I casually mentioned that i was roasting brussels sprouts for dinner. She was like, “Really? Brussels sprouts? You like Brussels sprouts?”

This got me thinking. Maybe it was the parents that didn’t like brussels sprouts? Maybe I grew up thinking they were gross even though I’d never had them, because my parents thought they were gross? If that was the case, I would guess that that generation didn’t like them because of the way they were prepared by the previous generation, our grandparents.
Growing up I also thought I hated asparagus. My grandfather has a gorgeous vegetable garden with a huge asparagus patch, and every spring he’d get really excited when the pale little stalks started coming in. He’d be out in the garden bent over staring at the ground with a little paring knife just waiting for the moment they were ready for harvest.
But then my grandmother would wash the stalks, plunk them into a pot of boiling water, and boil the ever loving crap out of them until they were reduced to limp, flabby, grey-green strands having little in common with what went into the pot initially. Then they’d be served, covered in butter and smelling like farts, where I’d politely decline or push them around my plate until I was excused. If I was forced to guess why my parents might not have liked brussels sprouts, it probably was because they’d only ever had them prepared the same way my grandmother prepared asparagus. Boiled until mushy and farty and entirely unappetizing.

shaved brussels sprouts salad | Brooklyn Homemaker

Oddly enough, I was gabbing with mom again sometime last week and she mentioned that my 16 year old sister had ordered brussels sprouts out at a restaurant. My how the tables had turned! It was my turn to ask, “Really? Brussels sprouts? She likes brussels sprouts?”
This time around though, mom’s response was a little different. “Yeah, She does! We both do. We love them!”

My my how times have changed. In world where Kale is king, Brussels sprouts might be queen. Or at least, maybe the little prince?

I think that the trend of properly cooking vegetables, leaving them bright and crisp and flavorful (and more nutritious), has finally reached the restaurants in my little slice of Upstate New York and taught my mom to finally see brussels sprouts in a different light.

shaved brussels sprouts salad | Brooklyn Homemaker

For this recipe I wanted to get as far away from mushy, farty, overcooked sprouts as possible, so I shaved them super thin with a mandolin and tossed them completely raw with a few simple ingredients.

The first time I tested this salad out on Russell, the sprouts I used were sort of sad and wilty and well past their prime, and the resulting salad was really unpleasant. No matter how thinly I shaved them, they were rubbery and flabby and no fun at all to eat raw. Russell said the salad was awful and that I should do something else, something with wilted brussels sprouts or maybe arugula or something.
I almost took his advice and ditched the recipe altogether, but I knew I really had something with this idea, and that better fresher sprouts would result in a far superior salad. So, I decided to ignore Russell’s advice and try the recipe again with fresher, crisper produce. Even Russell had to admit it was a huge success, entirely different from the first attempt.

So, take it from me, when eating them raw you really need to make sure your brussels sprouts are as fresh as can be.

shaved brussels sprouts salad | Brooklyn Homemaker

This salad is bright, light, delicate, and wonderfully refreshing. While it would make a great side salad for any meal, it’s the perfect thing to serve along with a rich, hearty, heavy meal like Thanksgiving dinner. It’s exactly what you want along with all that decadent food. The crisp bitter walnuts, crunchy sweet bursting pomegranate seeds, freshly shaved raw brussels sprouts, and simple bright lemony dressing are a welcome contrast against all the rich roasty indulgences that make up the rest of the meal. A lot of similar salads call for goat cheese or parmesan to compliment the acidic and bitter flavors, but I intentionally kept this salad as light and simple as possible, and it couldn’t be more perfect.

shaved brussels sprouts salad | Brooklyn Homemaker

Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad

Dressing: 
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey
generous salt and pepper to taste

Salad:
1 1/2 lbs brussels sprouts
1 1/2 cups walnuts
1 1/2 to 2 cups pomegranate seeds

To make the dressing combine olive oil, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper in a bowl or lidded jar and whisk or shake until well combined. Can be made a day ahead an stored in an airtight jar.

Slice off the tough bottoms of the brussels sprouts and discard. Using a mandolin slicer (use a guard and watch those fingers) or the slicing blade of a food processor (or with a sharp knife and some patience) slice the brussels sprouts as thinly as possible. Soak in very cold water for 5 to 10 minutes before drying with a salad spinner or some kitchen towels. If necessary, this can be done a day ahead and covered with a damp paper towel and plastic wrap or an air tight lid.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast them for about 8 minutes or until they smell like toasty nutty heaven. Be careful they don’t burn. Cool.

Combine brussels sprouts, walnuts, pomegranate seeds, and dressing and toss to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Serve immediately.

Note: Brussels sprouts should be as fresh as you can find them or they can be rubbery and a bit unpleasant to eat raw. The thinner you can shave them, the easier they’ll be to eat.

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette

I love beets. There’s just something about that sweet and earthy flavor, al dente firm yet tender bite, and intense color that I just can’t get enough of.

Growing up beets were never on the menu, and I’m not sure that I knew what a beet even was until I went off to college. My grandparents were always big gardeners, so you might think that beets would have been part of my childhood experience, but for whatever reason, they weren’t.

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

I don’t really remember the first time I ever ate one, or whether or not I liked it at the time, but eventually I realized that they’re amazing. Oddly enough, part of that beet love may have had something to do with my favorite author. I was in college the first time I heard of Tom Robbins. I was sitting at the bar after a long night waiting tables, sipping on my shift drink and shooting the shit with one of my coworkers about whatever I was reading at the time. Someone a few seats down at the bar overheard us and chimed in, “Have you ever read any Tom Robbins?” I hadn’t, but at the time I wasn’t convinced and didn’t take any steps to change that.

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

A month or so later I noticed a Tom Robbins book on a shelf in a friends apartment, and curiosity finally got the better of me. I asked if I could borrow it, and was instantly hooked. At this point I’ve read almost everything he’s ever written. A few titles I’ve read over and over to the point that my paperback copies are covered in masking tape and would probably disintegrate if I tried to give them another go. The first title I read still remains my favorite, and Jitterbug Perfume is definitely the one title I’ve read more than any other.

It’s also the title that I’ve recommended most, and every time anyone has actually taken my advice and read it, they’ve come back to tell me that they LOVED it with a capital LOVE!

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

I won’t spoil it for you, because I urge you to give it a read yourself if you haven’t already, but I will say that the subject matter is a bit more “fantastic” than I usually go for. I’m not someone who normally enjoys reading fantasy, but Tom Robbins’ fantasy is somehow more about the fantastic and less about the unbelievable or childish. He writes so intelligently and poetically and passionately that I’m completely sucked into Jitterbug Perfume‘s tales of time travel and immortality and individuality and old pagan religions and magic and sex and… perfume.

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

One craggy old root vegetable (the beet) plays an oddly important role in the story. After reading the book for the second (or may it was the third) time, I briefly contemplated getting a beetroot tattoo. I’m sure my mother will back my story up, as she was equally confused and horrified by the idea.

Robbins waxes so poetic about the humble beet that I was immediately, deeply, passionately in love with them. Even if I’d hated them (I didn’t) I’d still have been in love with the idea of the beet. It’s funny. He doesn’t really point out any profound detail about their history, or their nutritional value, it’s just that he uses beautifully vivid language to romanticize them and use them for a metaphor for something bigger. Nothing changed about the reality of beets, but the way I picture them was forever altered.

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.
Slavic peoples get their physical characteristics from potatoes, their smoldering inquietude from radishes, their seriousness from beets.
The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip…
The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies.
The beet was Rasputin’s favorite vegetable. You could see it in his eyes.” ― Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

Perhaps one of my favorite ways to prepare (and preserve) beets, is to pickle them. There’s something about adding vinegary acidity to their earthy sweetness that just elevates them.
You can pickle your own easily enough, but pickled beets are increasingly easy to find at the grocery store these days too. My own stash from this summer has already run dry, so for this recipe I bought some locally produced beets pickled with fennel.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy pickled beets is to pair them with other sweet, earthy, robust flavors in a bright filling salad. If you want to make this salad feel even more substantial, just top it with some thinly sliced grilled steak or seared chicken breast.

There’s nothing about this salad that isn’t amazing. Peppery fresh arugula, acidic sweet and earthy pickled beets, creamy earthy crumbled goat cheese, bright juicy pomegranate seeds, crunchy buttery cashews, and pungent yet delicate sliced shallot; all tied together with a quick and easy homemade balsamic vinaigrette. It doesn’t get any better than this y’all.

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

Pickled Beet and Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese and Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • Servings: 2 dinner salads, or 4 side salads
  • Print
5 oz (about 4 or 5 cups) arugula
3/4 cup pickled beets (cut into bite-size pieces if not already packed that way)
Seeds of 1/2 a fresh pomegranate (about 1/2 cup) *see note
1 cup toasted cashews
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
2.5 oz crumbled goat cheese (about 1/3 cup)

Dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
salt and pepper to taste

To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a dressing shaker or small bowl and shake or whisk vigorously until well combined. Set aside.

Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl and gently toss with about half the dressing. Try not to completely mix in the goat cheese or it’ll kind of just disappear. If you’re happy with the amount of dressing, you’re done. Otherwise, add a bit more until you’re satisfied, and gently toss again. Divide between serving bowls or plates and enjoy.

Any extra salad dressing should last several weeks tightly covered in the refrigerator.

*cook’s note:
My favorite way to get the seeds out of a pomegranate is to cut one in half, firmly grasp one half cut side down over a large bowl in one hand, while firmly whacking the skin side of the pomegranate with a wooden spoon held in the other hand. It may take a few good whacks to loosen the seeds, but they’ll eventually start falling out with each coming whack. You’ll need to rotate the pomegranate as you go so all sides get their fair share of abuse, and once all the seeds are removed you’ll want to pick through them to remove any stray yellow membrane that fell out with the seeds.